Vodacom Durban July day has finally arrived and all our questions will at last be answered. For us this race is the pinnacle of South African racing and the event everybody in the sport wants to win.
I have won the race four times, so along with Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech, one of us will be looking to become the first jockey to ride five Durban July winners – and I hope that honour goes to me.
This is one race that really has to work out for you because there are so many runners and so many obstacles blocking your path that if you do pull it off, one just has to except that it was meant to be.
Last year I had to wait for Anton to decided which horse he wanted to ride before I was given an option. Luckily for me the “hand me down” was The Conglomerate who went on to win. I got offered the same deal this time but I just feel you cannot play second fiddle and win all the time.
For that reason I committed to the Snaith yard and took It’s My Turn. Unfortunately my mount has not had a second run from a rest which has to come into play. I have a bad draw again but at least it’s better than last year when I was drawn widest of all.
It’s My Turn has always had a habit of grabbing the bit on the right hand side of his mouth and when he raced at Kenilworth he often would battle to negotiate the left handed turn but still ran some incredible races. Now if he does hang towards the right on the right-handed Greyville turn that should definitely be of benefit to him as I won’t have to fight him all the way around the turn.
I have basically worked out that the July is a race where the ages take on one another. The best three-year-old horses this year have to be Edict Of Nantes and Al Sahem. My concern with Al Sahem is that he raced in Durban and then came back to Joburg and has been giving the work riders quite a tough time. He is not a good starter and is drawn No 1 which can’t help him. If he gets out of his ground at a track like Greyville where the run-in is short he could get left too far back.
Of the older horses there are some for whom you can make a case. My first is The Conglomerate who beat this field from draw No 20 and this time he jumps from draw No 3. He has a habit of playing up in the stalls at times and might not get as good a start as he did last year.
My next fancy is Black Arthur. He’s had two decent warm-up runs since he was gelded and should be spot on for this race. His workout was very good although the one concern could be the distance. When I did agree to ride for the Snaith yard, they were keen for me to ride Black Arthur as they felt this could be his year. He was initially going to carry 53.5kg and that is why I committed to It’s My Turn.
In fairness, It’s My Turn has been running well. He is an easy type of horse to ride. He’s not going to refuse to jump and he always does everything you ask of him.
It is a long day and I don’t know many of the horses but I was hoping to ride Head Honcho in Race 2. Last time I was caught very wide and for him to have run second was an achievement so he could get you off on a winning note. His only danger is probably Archilles.
Race 3 is the Betting World 2200 which is just below the July field but the horse with the best form has to be Crowd Pleaser. Last time he ran second to Elusive Silva and previously to that he beat Edict Of Nantes who is fancied to win the July.
Race 4 is the Gold Vase where I have my first ride of the meeting. It is a plate race so the highest merit rated horse should win but Sun Of Africa beat many of these horses last time and should beat them again. The only concern is that he might not stay which means one should include Hermoso Mundo who has improved with gelding.
I ride Captain Splendid who is held by Sun On Africa and he is also not sure to stay the distance as he sometimes over-races.
Race 5 is the Golden Slipper and we have a lot of juveniles who can improve. It is also very difficult to make an assessment as most of them are lightly raced. Most of the stronger form horses are drawn wide on a track where the draw is crucial so include as many as you can.
A couple of horses who have the strongest form are Desert Rhythm, Gee Whizz, Green Top, London Secret, Neptune’s Rain and Rockin Russian.
Race 6 is the Golden Horseshoe which I felt I could win. I was confirmed to ride Varallo and the fact he ran second in a Grade 1 feature made him a huge runner. When the draws came out and I saw he was drawn No 1 I was chuffed, believing I had a winning ride. Unfortunately at the last minute I was jocked off and that was very annoying. I would make him one of the main runners in this field and the fact he is drawn No 1 with experience must make him the horse to beat.
He also has the joint highest unofficial merit rating and that has to be even more in his favour. His dangers could be Captain And Master, Flying Free, Woljayrine and Trojan Harbour, who has a shocking draw.
I ride Varimax who’s got a bad draw and beat a weak field last time as well. Hopefully he surprises and does well.
Race 8 is a Handicap on the Polytrack where Horse Guards could be a possible banker. He won his only start on the Poly with consummate ease and with the weight turnover with Attenborough and being drawn in pole position makes him a tough horse to beat.
I ride Angel’s Power who has done well of late but looks like he’s taking on stronger opposition and hopefully he can place.
Race 9 is another race for two-year-olds and on current form the best horse is Al Mariachi but a bad draw could cost him the race. The next best on form is Cat’s Legacy and he could provide a good back-up.
The Garden Province Stakes suits the highest rated runner and that could make Bela-Bela very hard to beat with the only danger being Just Sensual. I ride Polyphonic who is badly handicapped and has a wide draw.
Race 11 is a plate race and the best handicapped runner should come through but a good draw is important I am going to lean towards Hack Green as my first choice. The danger could be Pillar Of Hercules.
I ride Bishop‘s Bounty who has a shocking draw so I’m hoping for some luck.
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